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Bar Buzz: Startup treatment courts could get $3 million

A bill that would dedicate $3 million to startup Minnesota treatment courts could get stirred into the Judiciary finance omnibus bill that is slated to go through markups April 9.

Marion O’Neill

Marion O’Neill

House File 1349 from Rep. Marion O’Neill, as amended on April 3, would provide $750,000 each year in 2020-21 for startup treatment courts in Greater Minnesota. The same amount would be available over that period for start-up treatment courts in Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

O’Neill’s bill was laid over for possible inclusion in the omnibus last week.

The 63-page Judiciary finance omnibus bill was scheduled for a walk-through session and debate on April 4, after this story’s deadline. The money would be an addition to the $612,000 over two years already included in the omnibus bill. That money aims to stabilize existing treatment courts.

Jared Forner is member of the Wright County’s treatment court steering committee. He is also the first graduate of the county’s adult drug treatment court, dubbed “The Turn.” He was arrested on drug charges in 2016 and accepted into the treatment court in November of that year.

“And from there I started to grow,” he told lawmakers. “The first thing that happened to me was I learned how to be honest. And that was important to me because I could never tell the truth before.”

Katie Allen is an attorney at St. Paul’s Neighborhood Justice Center, which provides counsel for all of Ramsey County’s treatment courts. She said she has seen a tremendous shift in her clients’ attitude toward treatment courts in recent years.

Early on, she said, clients urged her to secure for them the least amount of jail time possible, rather than steering them toward probation by way of a demanding treatment court program.

“Now almost every single person I meet wants to do treatment courts,” Allen said. “They want to get help. They’re seeing their cousins, their brothers, their uncles, their family members in recovery in doing well. And that has become the goal now.”

“It’s so impactful,” O’Neill told Judiciary committee members. “This is one of the best things that we could possibly do to change the trajectory of people’s lives.”

There currently are 62 treatment courts operating in Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Judicial Branch. But 21 Minnesota counties lack treatment courts of any kind, according to O’Neill.


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About Kevin Featherly

Kevin Featherly, who joined BridgeTower Media in mid-2016, is a journalist and former freelance writer who has covered politics, law, business, technology and popular culture for publications and websites in the Twin Cities and nationally since the mid-1990s.

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